What are the five food groups that help maintain a balanced diet? An essential part of keeping a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet provides you with the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need to stay fit and healthy.
Healthy eating habits also help you avoid numerous diseases, improve brain function, keep you active, enable better sleep, and boost your mental health. To shed more light on the benefits of healthy eating, we will discuss what are the five food groups and how they contribute to your physical and mental health.
What Are The Five Food Groups?
The five food groups are categorized according to the main nutrients they provide. These include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and dietary fibre. The nutrients are distributed across different food groups, which include:
- Meat, fish, and beans
If you google “what are the five food groups”, you’ll find various iterations of this list across the web. However, if you take a closer look, they will have the same items mentioned above. Now, let’s review the nutrients present within each food group.
Grains are rich in carbohydrates, fibre, and certain minerals and vitamins. Carbohydrates serve as a primary source of energy for the body. Examples of grains include:
We suggest opting for whole grains that have not been extensively processed. Processed grains lose their nutrients, and you will be consuming empty calories instead.
Refined grains such as white rice, white pasta, and white bread are fortified with minerals and vitamins, but you cannot replace the lost nutrients. If you are looking for wholegrain foods, try choosing foods that list a whole grain as its primary ingredient.
Some examples include oatmeal, whole wheat bread, breakfast cereal, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, plain popcorn, and wholegrain crackers.
You should include vegetables in your meals. Vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, and folate. They also contain low amounts of saturated and trans fat and have high fibre content.
Some vegetables that you can consider adding to your diet are carrots, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, kale, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Try having a single serving of vegetables with every meal. This is equal to half a cup of cooked vegetables. You can also have a small glass of 100% vegetable juice.
Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. Like vegetables, they also carry low levels of trans fat and saturated fat. Fruits such as strawberries, cantaloupe, and oranges carry vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
We suggest eating whole fruits or sliced fruits since these retain the fibre content missing from fruit juices. Fibre helps with digestion and is important for maintaining gut health.
It is recommended to have at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. However, if this proves difficult, you can include a single serving of fruit in your meals. This can include a medium apple, orange, or banana. You can also opt for half a cup of chopped, canned, or cooked fruit.
If you are drinking 100% fruit juice, make sure you keep your consumption to less than 8 ounces daily. Fruit juices are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, they also contain significant amounts of fructose, which can be harmful.
4. Meat, Fish, and Beans
Meat, fish, and bones are another important food group that forms an important component of most meals. It contains nutrients such as proteins, minerals, and B vitamins. These nutrients help build and repair muscles, aid digestion, boost your immune system, and improve blood quality.
You can choose between the following foods for this food group:
- Bean curd
Pulses are a reliable source of minerals, vitamins, and fibre. They contain low fat content and can be used in a variety of ways. Fish is highly rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins. It contains vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids, which are very beneficial for the heart, skin, and brain.
If you are going to eat oil-rich fish, limit yourself to 4 portions per week. These fish often contain minimal amounts of pollutants, which can be harmful to the body. You can also try animal meat for high protein, vitamin, and mineral content. Vitamin B12 can be only be found in animal meat.
Avoid eating processed meat and red meat. These increase the risk of colon cancer. Some meats also contain unsaturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol levels and affect heart health. To avoid this, we suggest eating lean cut meats.
You can also try eggs to maintain a high protein intake. These are easy to cook and very healthy. Avoid using too much oil or salt, though. Finally, you should also add unsaturated fats to your diet. These lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiac disease. Olive oil is a great source to consider.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, which promotes bone health. Calcium is also essential for healthy teeth. Dairy products provide protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, and riboflavin, as well.
If you have milk, we suggest consuming skimmed, semi-skimmed, or low fat milk. This contains less fat than full-fat milk, but it is still rich in other nutrients found in dairy.
If you are lactose-intolerant, you can also choose rice milk or calcium-fortified plain soy milk to maintain your daily calcium intake.
We hope you got an answer to your question, “What are the five food groups?” Be it dairy, fruits, vegetables, or meat, each food group plays a vital role in maintaining your health. Some nutrients aid in digestion, while others improve your immune system and bone health.
You can consult a dietician or nutritionist for tips and recommendations on ensuring you consume the right amount of nutrients each day. Good luck!